Due to a controversial appeals court decision relating to criminal case originating in Indiana, police are now able to legally search cell phones that are discovered at a crime scene.
Indiana police discovered a batch of cellphones that were left at a drug bust crime scene. When police searched the cell phones, they came across the cell phone owner’s call history which lead the police to others who were involved in the drug operation.
A man that was found guilty in the drug bust, appealed his conviction stating that it was illegal for them to search his cell phone without a warrant. The U.S Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Court came to the conclusion that it did not violate any constitutional rights against unreasonable search.
“Lurking behind this issue is the question whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer (whether called a ‘computer’ or not) can be searched without a warrant,” Judge Posner stated. (Read Posner’s opinion here.)
Posner compared the search of cell phones to the search of journals and diaries. He stated that just like journals, police should be able to look up the owner’s address or phone number, but in order to read text messages, look at photos, or read anything else, the police would have to get a judge’s permission to do so.
Prosecutors argued that police do not have the time to get a judge’s permission in order to obtain information from cell phones since most data can be wiped clean from the owner from a different location.